Live review: Big Day Out 2012

By Chris Schulz

3 comments
Photo / Richard Robinson.
Photo / Richard Robinson.

The Herald's 2012 Big Day Out coverage continues with reviews of as many of the bands as we can fit into our day.

Soundgarden, Big Day Out Stage, 9pm
If there's a fitting way for the Big Day Out to go out, it can only be with Soundgarden. Seeing the grunge machine fire up with Matt Cameron, Ben Sheppard and Kim Thayil ripping into Searching With My Good Eye Closed, as Chris Cornell bellows over the top, was nothing short of thrilling. They've got a new album coming but Cornell said they'd be playing that on a future tour, so instead Soundgarden played the hits. And they were huge, Rusty Cage, Outshined, Black Hole Sun, Spoonman, Jesus Christ Pose and even TY Cobb got airings during the 90-minute set. But it ended in a thrillingly shreaky squall of feedback during a blindingly good Slaves and Bulldozers. Goodbye, Auckland's Big Day Out. You will be missed.

Foster the People, 7.45pm, Green Stage
They were one of the hyped bands for 2011 and they pulled the biggest crowd the Green Stage has seen all day. Foster the People's summery vibes and pop-tinged hooks are perfect festival fodder, and their set built up from some of Torches' lesser-known tracks into those all out singalongs everyone knows and is beginning to love.

Call It What You Want, Helena Beat and Houdini showed off front man Mark Foster's well-used falsetto, while the band filled out the songs with two drummers and a couple of keyboardists. But everyone was waiting for - you guessed it - Pumped Up Kicks, which morphed from a radio staple into a scuzzy drum 'n' bass-infused monster. Perhaps that's where they'll take things for album No. 2.

Kasabian, 7.15pm, Big Day Out Stage
A mate described these British louts as "yob-rock" and I'd have to agree - but they sure come fired up and armed with some sizeable singalong choruses in tow. It's hard to say whether or not the free ticket offer (bring your old BDO T-shirt or ticket and you're in for nada) has boosted the crowds yet, but there was one of the biggest crowds gathered for Tom Meighan and co's main stage show. I'm not usually a fan, but even I couldn't resist singing along to early highlight Shoot the Runner, as was Where Did All the Love Go? An early evening guilty pleasure.

Girl Talk, 6.30pm, Boiler Room
Gregg Gillis told the sizeable crowd gathered at the Boiler Room that he'd come to party - and party he did, along with 50-odd scantily clad friends he invited onto the Boiler Room stage with him. It's lucky the mash-up king, who goes by the DJ name of Girl Talk, wore sweat pants, because the dude is one sweaty beast as he mixes everything from Beyonce and Kylie Minogue to 50 Cent and Notorious BIG into huge, danceable anthems. As for the dude showering the crowd in toiler paper, that was a big waste of three-ply man.

My Chemical Romance, 5.30pm, Big Day Out Stage
The last time My Chemical Romance played the Big Day Out in 2007, the entire stadium was jam-packed with teens smeared in makeup and eyeliner. It has to be said - they played terribly. Ironically, they're playing much better today, but to a much smaller crowd. There's still plentying of clapping, chanting and handwaving to songs like I'm Not Okay and Teenagers, and sure, their angsty teenage rebellion is a little out of date. But they write rock operas just like a young Green Day - and we all know what happened to them.

Midnight Youth, Skate Stage, 4.45pm
Tony Hawk, Skate Ramp, 4.45pm

Imagine this - make a mind picture if you will: Skating legend Tony Hawk is ripping it up on the half pipe. Next door, Midnight Youth are rocking through tracks from their underrated second album. Several thousand people are gathered to watch. And over this cacophony there's the Nek Minnit dude, yelling ridiculous statements like, "We're taking it from nek minnit to nek level." Surreal, but bloody enjoyable - and it's something you could only ever see at the Big Day Out. For the record, Midnight Youth are looking every inch the part these days, with front man Jeremy Redmore's buffed up image, shorn locks and sunnies resembling a certain Jon Bon Jovi. Tracks from their second album stood out the most, with the bar room boogie blues of Don't Stop particularly impressive. Tony Hawk attracted a slightly bigger crowd, but you'd have to ask Mr Nek Minnit to describe his moves. Nek level indeed.

Cairo Knife Fight, Skate Stage, 3.30pm
Guitarist Aaron Tokona is headbanging so hard his neck could fall off. Nick Gaffaney is pounding his drums so ferociously his arms could do the same. That's part of the joy of watching Cairo Knife Fight - their intense melodic racket could at any point come to pieces, but they always seem to be able to rein it in and pull it back from the brink. Seven minute songs? There's only two of them? Doesn't matter - they're thrilling from back to front. Add to that a perfectly timed guitar toss from Tokona to Gaffaney after the final notes were played and you've got yourself a midday highlight right there.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Green Stage, 2.45pm
The rain clouds cleared and the sun came out again for Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and the Neilson brothers - one singing, the other drumming - had the foresight to wear what appeared to be ponchos (or were they kaftans?) for their set. The pair, along with a bassist, delivered their brand of low-fi alt-pop to a crowd that mostly remained motionless, many lying in the grass and soaking up some sun. Still, Thought Ballune and Ffunny Ffriends were everything they were on record and more, catchy and danceable potential classics that exist in their own strange little world.

Beastwars, Skate Stage, 2.15pm
The Beastwars singer's beard is unlikely to be topped today, and neither is their metal racket. The Wellington act thrilled with a super-heavy set chock-full of the kind of desert-metal boogie they've become known for, with the singer's strange Tool-like antics never failing to please. And in Lake of Fire they've got a bonafide metal classic under their belt. Another Kiwi band that could have held their own on the main stage, give half a chance. Roar.

Das Racist, Boiler Room, 1.45pm
The Boiler Room has mostly been the Hip-hop Stage so far today, with Das Racist following sets by @Peace and David Dallas. The mixtape kings delivered a 45-minute show typical of their slacker persona. The band's three MC's - and a DJ - slopped around stage in bare feet, sat on speaker stacks and delivered their rhymes in the laidback drawl they're known for. The crunk hit Who's That? Brown and singalong Brand New Dance were highlights, but I didn't see them play my favourite Swate. And the band's DJ let the side with his constant crotch thrusts. Dude, next time make sure your fly is done up. Please.

The Living End, Big Day Out Stage, 1.30pm
This is the last time we'll see the Living End at the Big Day Out, and possibly in New Zealand. Many people I spoke to are pleased about that. Apparently Jon Toogood joined them onstage for a version of Nirvana's Breed. I'm kinda glad I didn't get to see it.

Regurgitator, Skate Stage, 1pm
Anyone remember the 'Gurge? You know, those Aussie upstarts from the '90s? Well, here they are, rocking up the Skate Stage like they never left town. I love that they played all those old songs - like Porcelein Dream, Black Bugs, ! (Song Formerly Known As), and, erm, I Will Lick Your A**ehole like some kind of nostalgic timewarp. (If you're drawing a blank, go legally download the album Unit). It got pretty bizarre later on, with a strange medley of hip-hop, scuzz metal and even a ballad, delivered in brief soundbites. But hey, they're on the Skate Stage - it's the smallest here, so they can do what they want.

David Dallas, 12.15pm, Boiler Room
He's so cool. And so laid back. David Dallas is the complete opposite of everything American rap stands for, and he's all the better for it. Even he was forced to admit he'd drawn a sizeable crowd for that time of day, and despite the lack of breakfast he delivered a polished performance of hits from his recent album The Rose Tint - including Til Tomorrow, Start Looking Around and the superb Chemical Brothers-sampling Take A Picture. He even threw in oldie Get Out the Way from his days in Frontline. You should take a picture, because Dallas is going from strength to strength. If there was going to be another Big Day Out, he'd probably be on the main stage.

@Peace, 11am, Boiler Room
It's not really a Boiler Room at all any more - more a Boiler Stage, with absolutely no cover from that searing sun. And there were precious few people there to see @Peace - a side project from Auckland hip-hoppers Home Brew - open it up with some laid back tunes and summery grooves. Tom Scott is still playing the lovable prankster front man role - "this is kind of like one of those wine cellar shows," he joked about the small crowd. But, jokes aside, this is a more serious version of Home Brew, with head-nodding delights like Home and Sky Is Falling proving they could go far. Let's hope they get the audience they deserve.

Parkway Drive, 11am, Big Day Out Stage
The day's first moshpit, and circle pit of death, formed for Parkway Drive, the Aussie metallers who had the dubious task of opening Mt Smart's main stage. At this time of day some of their brutal riffage, feedback blitzes and relentless screaming can sound a little tuneless, but to the first-pumping crowd that gathered early for the Byron Bay band, they seemed genuinely thrilled. Bonus points for playing in shorts and jandals. How Australian is that?

* nzherald.co.nz will provide updates from the Big Day Out throughout the day, so keep checking back for more.

- Herald online

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